Millions of people use commercial cleaning products every day to keep their homes and offices clean, fresh, shiny and germ-free. Unfortunately, many of these products contain toxic chemicals that are far more dangerous than the dirt and germs they are designed to eliminate.
Americans spend 90% of their time indoors and in many cases they work or live in buildings where there are no open windows to help diffuse the harmful effects of chemicals. Many health-conscious families and businesses have switched to organic cleaning products to keep indoor environments clean and healthy.
The immediate effects of exposure to commercial cleaning product toxins include respiratory problems, itchy eyes, skin irritation and chemical burns. Scarier still are the long-term effects which may include hormonal disturbances, birth defects, chronic pulmonary issues and increased risks of certain types of cancer. Some of the most commonly used dangerous chemicals include chlorine, ammonia, diethanolamine (DEA) triethanolamine (TEA), sodium hydroxide, petrochemicals and formaldehyde.
People who work in the industrial cleaning profession are especially vulnerable. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the cleaning industry employs about 2.8 million people who are exposed to these potentially life-threatening toxins on a daily basis. Recent data shows that 6 percent of janitorial workers experience a job-related injury from exposure to cleaning products every year.
Federal initiatives launched in recent years have encouraged healthier working conditions for janitorial workers. The EPA and US Green Building Council (USGBC) have worked to develop stricter guidelines for commercial cleaning product manufacturers.
Demand for organic cleaning products has increased significantly in recent years as more and more consumers have come to understand the serious health hazards posed by many mainstream commercial cleaners. Many commercial cleaning product companies have embraced the “green” movement, but not all of them are as “eco-friendly” as they claim to be.
When reading the labels on products, look for specific statements such as “biodegradable in 3-5 days.” Steer clear of vague terms like “earth-friendly” and “natural” and choose products whose labels list “no solvents, phosphates or petrochemicals.” Products whose ingredients are “plant-based” are usually safe choices.
Private homeowners and commercial property managers sometimes choose to make their own cleaning products from ingredients that can be readily found on most kitchen shelves. Some of the options include:
Baking Soda: Use baking soda to remove built-up grease on stoves and other surfaces. Apply it to the greasy area, let it sit for a few minutes and then scrub it. Baking soda is also a great deodorizer and many people use it in drains and refrigerators.
Lemon juice: The citric acid in lemon juice makes it a great cleaner for glass, aluminum and porcelain. It also provides a refreshing clean smell.
Cornstarch: This natural all-purpose product can be used to safely clean windows shampoo carpets, and polish furniture.
Vinegar: Because it contains about five percent acetic acid, vinegar provides a mild cleaning power. It can be used to dissolve mineral deposits and grease. It is normally used in a solution of water.
In recent years the options for organic cleaning products have increased and consumers have many choices. Whether you purchase natural products or make your own, you have many options for keeping your indoor environment clean and free from toxins.